Meet Zeinab Shaban, a PhD student at Tyndall who is one of the many women who ‘gown up’ daily to work in our state-of-the-art cleanroom facilities. A cleanroom is a controlled environment where pollutants like dust, airborne microbes and aerosol particles are filtered out in order to provide the cleanest area possible. This level of cleanliness is important as the nanomaterials Zeinab and her team work with are so small that even a speck of dust could destroy them. Zeinab tells us more about her research, working in the cleanroom and her advice for young women considering a career in science.
What is your current role and research area?
I am a PhD student at IPIC (SFI Centre for Photonics) at Tyndall where I work on developing micro-LEDs for displays and visible light communications using micro-transfer printing technologies.
What path led you here?
My career started with a bachelor’s degree in physics, followed by a masters in science from Kharazmi University in Tehran, Iran. I have always been interested in physics, so I studied hard and enjoyed it, which resulted in me being ranked first in my class for both my degree and masters. While working on my master thesis, I gained a practical insight into the research world and found a passion for photonics. Following this, I worked as a photonics researcher at Kharazmi University for three years, where the results of my work on solar cells was patented. In 2018, I wanted to experience new cultures so I decided to study for a PhD at Tyndall to bring together my interests with new experiences.
Did you have a role model who influenced your study/career choice?
My parents were my first role models in life. They always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even if it meant leaving my comfort zone, which made it easier for me to study abroad. In addition, my partner (Mehrdad) is one of my daily inspirations; I learn a lot from him about how to stay motivated at work even when I am frustrated and stressed.
Apart from my family, I have been lucky to work with people with amazing personalities who have inspired me in many different ways. In particular, Brian Corbett, my supervisor at Tyndall, is a knowledgeable leader with a decisive and encouraging personality who is a great role model for me.
What does working in a cleanroom involve?
To work in a cleanroom you must be precise and have great attention to detail; even minor errors can be costly or problematic. Nevertheless, working in a cleanroom is exciting because it allows me to be creative in a different way every day. I have the opportunity to design new devices that have the potential to improve everyday life in the future.
What could be done to support women in STEM and #BreakTheBias (International Women's Day theme for 2022)?
Joining a women's group in the scientific field where new scientists can easily communicate with academic and industry professionals in order to benefit from their experience would be a great way to stay motivated and achieve one’s goals.
What advice would you give to young women considering a career in science?
Follow your passions and pursue your interests. Embrace your own uniqueness and appreciate the diversity of those that surround you, don’t be intimidated by differences. In that scenario, continue to follow your dreams, learn as much as you can and do your best at work. I have learned that people will accept you for who you are.